Relief and resolve in Minneapolis after guilty verdict in Chauvin trial

'A dark cloud has been lifted': residents react to Chauvin verdict, 11 months after George Floyd's killing

A makeshift tombstone for George Floyd near the spot where he was murdered by former police officer Derek Chauvin. Willy Lowry / The National  
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On a cold, bleak morning in Minneapolis, the mood on Wednesday was anything but.

Tiffany Blomgren and her seven-year-old son Greer stood in front of the Cup Foods on the corner of 38th and Chicago, staring quietly at the place where George Floyd, who was black, took his last breaths under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer.

Covered in flowers, candles and paintings, the site has become a shrine to Floyd.

His death from asphyxiation when the officer, Derek Chauvin, restrained him last year sparked weeks of global protests and mass unrest across the US, laying bare the racial injustices that have persisted here for centuries and the unequal treatment people of colour frequently endure from police.

"We said this is a place to remember him but now it's also a place to celebrate him, so we wanted to come and see and have those feelings of comfort and then also support for the community," Ms Blomgren told The National.

Tiffany Blomgren brought her seven-year-old son Greer to George Floyd Square the morning after former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of all three charges against him. Willy Lowry / The National

A block away from George Floyd Square, as the intersection is now known, dozens of paper tombstones lined a drainage field.

On each tombstone, in simple black writing, was the name of someone who has been killed by police in the US.

At the front is the marker for George Floyd. Flowers have been placed in the surrounding grass.

Lisa and Rick Wheeler watched as their nearly three-year-old grandson Felix weaved through the tombstones.

They know Felix is too young to understand why they were there, but they wanted him to know when he grows up that he was present for a defining moment in US history.

“This is a generational memory,” Ms Wheeler said. “It’s a point in history and hopefully a very important point.”

The collective sense of relief could be felt in cities across the US after Chauvin was convicted of all three counts against him, including third-degree murder.

Fears abated of a new wave of unrest that could have ensued if Chauvin had been acquitted, and people celebrated in the streets after the verdicts were announced.

“It’s like a dark cloud has been lifted,” resident Aaron Taylor said.

But he said the verdict was only the start of what needed to happen in a country where police – who are granted sweeping latitude to use deadly force – are seldom held accountable in the killings of black people.

“There is still a lot more work to be done to where people of colour can drive down the street and not be profiled or have a situation like this ever happen again,” Mr Taylor said.

Jamil Stamschror-Lott, a therapist, who lives just a few streets from where Floyd was killed, said he was surprised by the verdict.

“Black folks have learned not to get their hopes up too high as it relates to these tragic matters,” he said. “US history has shown us we will have it quickly stripped away.”

Mr Stamschror-Lott said the past year had taken a tremendous toll on the city’s black community.

A picture of an angel marks the location of where George Floyd was killed on May 25, 2020. Willy Lowry / The National

He noted that while yesterday’s verdict was a step in the right direction, it came under the shadow of another police killing in the area.

Last week, Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old father, was shot and killed during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb. His death sparked further protests in the city and many people said their attention now will turn to the officer who fatally shot him.

The officer, Kim Potter, immediately resigned and has been arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter. Wright is to be buried on Thursday.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Wednesday that the US Justice Department is opening an investigation into policing practices in Minneapolis.

“Yesterday’s verdict in the state criminal trial does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis,” Mr Garland said.

The new investigation will review the entire police department and may result in major changes to policing there.